Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book Review: The Politician

You have all heard of the John Edward's baby-mama drama, right? It's been all over the news lately, and it is a really compelling (and sad) political scandal.

I was a John and Elizabeth Edwards fan for the past few years (although I was an ardent Obama supporter, John Edwards was a close second for me!) and my interest in them was only strengthened when Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer. The strength that she showed, putting her country ahead of herself. Well, I thought it was admirable. They seemed to be a family who was just so normal - priveledged, yet suffering from the same misfortunes as other families (cancer, tragedy, etc). I was a BIG fan of John and Elizabeth Edwards.

After the details of John Edwards affair became news fodder, I was surprised. He just doesn't seem like the type, I thought. His wife was suffering from terminal cancer. His family seemed so close, so happy, so adjusted, so normal.

And yet.

He cheated on his wife, and fathered a baby by another woman.

The story sort of ends there, kind of like his political career (not being snarky, just a fact) because he is no longer an inspirational figure to be adored, revered, but rather a hypocrite, a punchline. It's really sad. Wasted potential, wasted possibilities.

When I heard about "The Politician" book, I knew I had to read it. And read it I did. I started it on a flight on Friday night, and finished it on Sunday. I couldn't put it down! It combined elements from many of my hobbies - politics, scandal, behind-the-scenes insider information, and celebrity. It was so good. I soaked it in.

The book tells the story of John Edwards meteoric rise to political fame, with details about the hypocritical and conniving ways that he achieved the success. The story is written by Andrew Young, his aide and close friend of 10 years. Initially, I was displeased by Young. I thought that he was a sell-out, and thought "What kind of friend would betray him at the lowest time of his life?".

Strikingly, Young addresses this on the first pages, acknowledging that yes, he was being viewed as an opportunist, and in some ways he was being one. He felt like his hand was dealt to him BY Edwards, and therefore he was just playing the cards that Edwards dealt. As a 10-year aide to Edwards, his future and income was tied to Edwards career, and since that has flailed, so too has Young's.

(Young was so loyal to the Edwards, that he actually issued a public statement claiming to be the father of Edwards love-child... talk about dedication to your boss!)

It's hard to explain all of the ways that the book made me think. It discusses the conversations that were had behind the scenes regarding every aspect of Edwards public persona. From what color shirt, to what setting, to what he should be holding in his hands during a speech, every detail was orchestrated, was perfected - for every single setting. It makes me really question the way that all politicians are molded - what is genuine, and what is fake?

The book paints Elizabeth in an unfavorable light, as well, but with sympathy for her health. Young shows her to be a cold ambitious woman, as concerned with John's political career as he was, perhaps more so. It is so at odds with the way that I thought of her before this, that it is just striking.

I already returned the book to the library (hence the lack of direct quotes) but I really enjoyed it. I read it mostly with skepticism in mind, but frankly John Edwards hasn't proven to be the kind of man that I should have faith in, that I should give the benefit of the doubt to. I highly recommend it!

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